So much of the Christian life comes down to the matter of identity. At heart, who are we? Who or what has the right to define us? What is our deepest identity? Identity is at the core of many issues, not the least of which is same-sex attraction. In her book Gay Girl, Good God, Jackie Hill Perry offers four “categories” to guide our thinking about identity as we “act the miracle” of sanctification. Though she applies them specifically to Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction, in various ways they pertain to every believer and every temptation.
First, the identity of sin. Sin is not beautiful. Though each person is unique, their temptations are not, for the same devil is behind them all. He has well-worn tricks of the trade he brings to bear on us all. “From Eden until now, in pulling a person toward sin, he must first convince them that the thing for which they feel compelled to taste will be a satisfying one.” Sin has a way of making sin seem more beautiful and desirable than God. Sin has a way of making it and not God worth living and dying for. As it pertains to same-sex attracted Christians Perry says, “There will come a day or two or many for the SSA Christian when the affections for which they once delighted in will whisper for them to return. It will whisper the promise of joy and fulfillment. But it will feel more true than it is, for sin can never deliver on its promise to make us happy. Vomit will always be vomit even if drizzled with chocolate, sliced almonds, and a cherry on top.” In times of temptation we must turn to Scripture to learn our true identity and to discover true joy.
Second, the identity of the saint. You are not your temptations. Temptations speak in a loud voice. “They tell us of their potential. They speak of our need and say they can fix it.” The longer and louder they talk, the more they generate shame. “Shame wants us to believe it is accurate in its evaluation of us. That we are too wretched to be made new. Too dirty to be made clean. Too prone to sin for forgiveness to matter.” Specifically to people who experience same-sex attraction it insists “that in all the fruits of the great salvation we’ve come to bear, that the temptation to still want our gay exes or to feel how it felt to be loved by someone of the same sex, means that we are just a sinner beyond repair or worse, that we are simply still gay.” Yet the Christian must learn that even though temptations speak with a loud voice, God speaks through His Word in a powerful voice. And he has the only voice that matters when it comes to identity.
Third, the identity of the church. You are not alone. Though every temptation breeds a sense of isolation, perhaps none does so more commonly and effectively than same-sex attraction. There can be fear of being misunderstood or fear or never being fully accepted. There can be the misunderstanding that “they can succeed at the Christian faith without the presence of other Christians. That they can be a single soldier in the battle against sin, the devil, and the flesh, outnumbered unknowingly, they haven’t the foresight to see that no war has been won alone. Or the wisdom to gather than sanctification is as communal as communion.” God calls us all into the church where we can serve and be served, equip and be equipped. It was true from the beginning and remains true today—man was not meant to be alone—which means you are not alone.
Fourth, the identity of God. God is better than you can imagine. At heart of all sin is unbelief. In fact, sin began when Adam and Eve chose not to believe what God said about himself. The identity we assign to God will define our own. “If He is the Creator, then we are created. If He is Master, then we are servants. If He is love, then we are loved. If He is omnipotent, then we are not as powerful as we think. If He is omniscient, then there is nowhere to hide. If He cannot lie, then His promises are all true.” God is so much greater than we imagine and, if that’s true, it’s a waste of time to pursue anyone or anything smaller than him. Ultimately, we mustn’t place our identity in who we’re sure we are, but in who we know God to be.
Here is how Perry wraps up these reflections on identity. “It should be an expectation of both newer and older believers coming out of the LGBT community that they will experience the temptation to identify as something other than what Scripture has declared as true. Whether it is the identity of sin, the identity of the saint, the identity of the church or the identity of God, there is a real enemy that takes delight in our doubt. But the greatest weapon we have against him and even our own flesh is faith in God’s Word. By trusting it as having the final say, we will remain strong even when we are weak.”